Hacking food

I decided a while back that cooking on weekends just wasn’t working out for me.  But Brooke has a different opinion, and yesterday she said that I was handling dinner.  Brooke suggested something simple, like opening up a can of trader joe’s vegetarian chili and maybe some cornbread.  But we didn’t have any cornbread, of course.  I looked at the clock and it was only 4pm, so there was time, so I decided to make something loosely called vegetarian chili with cornbread, although it turned out not to be vegetarian or strictly speaking chili.  However, the harshest critics in the house both went back for seconds (and thirds of cornbread), so I want to jot down the recipe so I can remember it some other day.

First, I followed the cornbread recipe in vegetarian cooking for everyone by Deborah Madison  (I love that book).  I have had good luck with Julia Child’s various cornbread recipes, but wanted to try something different.  I made it in a 10inch cast iron skillet, in the oven.

Second, the chili.  We had a can of vegetarian trader joe’s chili, but I didn’t want to use it.  So instead, because we had 2 hours, I aimed for a chili executed along the lines of a bolognese sauce—that is, simmer tomatoes for a long time, then add other ingredients closer to serving time.

So I sauteed about half a brown onion (small dice or smaller) in a glug or two of olive oil in a largish pot.  Then I roughly chopped one orange bell pepper that was in the vegetable crisper, and tossed it in as the onions were browning, then opened a large can of tomatoes (trader joes unsalted, 18oz I think) and poured in the juice (so the onions would stop burning) and then roughly chopped the tomatoes.  (I never bother with seeding tomatoes, but you could if you want, I guess.  Chili isn’t refined, so I don’t see the point)

Now in a bolognese sauce, I usually saute the meat until “the raw redness is gone” and then toss in a cup of white wine and simmer and then a cup of milk and simmer, reducing both to zero (I forget the order, but I guess it should be milk first or else the acid  in the wine will curdle the milk).  So that got me thinking about adding protein, so I minced some leftover pork tenderloin from Saturday and ruined the vegetarian aspect of this dish.

I let that simmer and got going on the cornbread.

About an hour in, I went to the garden and picked some thyme, oregano, and parsley, washed, chopped, and tossed them in, along with ground cumin and some salt from the spice rack.  (Cumin and oregano to make it more spanish than italian, give it more of a chili vibe than boiled tomatoes vibe).  I stared at the pantry for more ideas, and saw a small tin of roasted green chili peppers that had been sitting there forever.  I opened that up, tossed about a tablespoon or two in, and pitched the rest. I’d rather roast my own chili peppers.

I liked how it was tasting, but got a little concerned that the girls would hate it, so I opened up a can of the aforementioned TJs vegetarian chili and heated it up as a backup plan.  That turned out to be mildly spicy, which often is a non-started for Emma.

With about 10 minutes to go (about 10 to 6), I opened up a can of red kidney beans, rinsed them multiple times in lots of water (the non-digestible stuff is water soluble, thank you to Julia Child), and tossed them into the pot.

When the cornbread was done, Brooke made a simple salad and we ate.  The girls liked both types of chili, but preferred the Trader Joe’s stuff.  Brooke preferred “the one with sweet potatoes”, so I offered her another glass of wine instead.

Had a picket fence pinot noir with it.  Okay pairing.


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